BAE Systems

Part of Backbench Business — [Un-allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 1:23 pm on 24th November 2011.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Alison Seabeck Alison Seabeck Shadow Minister (Defence) 1:23 pm, 24th November 2011

This is an important debate, not only for the workers affected in Brough, Warton and Samlesbury, and for their families and their wider community, but for the wider UK defence industry, UK manufacturing, and all the businesses and their employees in the supply chain.

The case for this debate has been set out in stark terms by Mr Davis and my right hon. Friend Alan Johnson. Their comments, though, have to be set against the bigger picture. We have an economy that is flatlining, with the lowest growth of any country in the G7 bar Japan—which, of course, suffered an earthquake and a nuclear disaster—and the lowest growth of any EU country bar Greece, Portugal and Cyprus, yet we have a Government Department that repeatedly states that the decisions on where redundancies fall are nothing to do with it. I have to ask the Minister whether that is also the view of his colleagues in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Department for Communities and Local Government, and the Department for Work and Pensions, who have to pick up the pieces and the costs of these significant job losses.

We are talking about very skilled workers, whether in the north-west or Humberside, who have so much to offer to the company and to UK plc, and yet face a hugely uncertain future. It is far from clear whether the processes have been properly managed. It is also unclear whether the 90-day consultation process has been genuine or whether the company has been paying lip service to this requirement. I can well understand why right hon. and hon. Members and the trade unions that represent those affected speak inside and outside this place with such frustration and anger at how this is being handled by BAE as it downsizes and rationalises its footprint in the light of changing global demands. The leak in advance of its announcement is clearly unacceptable. We must understand just how much that affects the work force’s perception of the management and what had until now, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle said, been a very good working relationship. It is unclear what efforts have been made to relocate any of the work force and to consider alternative proposals from inside the company. My right hon. Friend, who has vast experience in these matters, posed a whole series of questions that the company needs to answer and in which the Government should take a close interest.

I know that the Minister cannot answer questions today, but I hope he will none the less give serious thought to this. I was reassured to hear him say on several occasions that he would take away issues that were raised across the Chamber. That is not least because we saw in the 1980s the loss of large defence and industrial employers and the devastating effects that that had on communities. Those effects outlast generations, as we saw in my own constituency of Plymouth—and, indeed, in Barrow, in Woolwich, and in other places.

This is a test of the Government’s willingness and ability to support British manufacturing, British defence industries and skilled British jobs, and not merely to talk of an export-led recovery. I do not mean to stray into territory that I am sure will be covered at length in the following debate, but the issues raised at Brough speak to the wider question of how the Government are failing to support British business and get the economy growing again.